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A Pause Can Be A Powerful Backstop To Strong Emotions

Strong emotion is inevitable in our digital, global world

How much time is strong emotion wasting in your office? You know the routine: someone says something in a meeting, someone else flies off the handle. The meeting is effectively over. Or someone gets pissed about an email and starts talking to everyone in the office about how awful the sender is. The time spent cleaning up the spin cycle is exhausting and a drain. Or perhaps the most wasteful: people get angry and simply stop contributing.

Strong emotion is inevitable in our digital, global world. So many of us are working harder, longer, and at all hours of the day. The stress level running through our veins is higher than it used to be from the first moments we wake. Complicating the demands are the interruptions. Multiple screens, communication channels, open offices, and the expectation to respond instantly are literally driving us mad. Studies of interruption by Gloria Mark of UC Irvine show that when people are interrupted, they work faster. Here’s the problem she also discovered: They get more stressed too. The stress causes us to get stuck in an emotionally reactive place, and most of us don’t know what to do next.

The first solution not being taught is deeply personal: stepping back. We get stuck because our brains literally are wired to stay emotional. If you were working with someone 1000 years ago and you got in a fight, the field didn’t get plowed. The family didn’t eat. Our corporate offices trade in ideas and we get away with huge amounts of inefficiency. Inviting people to step back from emotional responses can immediately impact a meeting, back-office chatter, and people’s willingness to share their best ideas.

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